Brian Urlacher, the kid from Lovington, N.M., who went on to become one of the great Lobo football players of all time and who redefined the position of middle linebacker in the NFL, is a first-ballot inductee to the National Football League Hall of Fame.
Urlacher, who wore number 44 on his jersey for the cherry and silver in his college days, went on to play 13 years for the Chicago Bears and became the face of the franchise. That’s a huge accomplishment for a middle linebacker who followed in the footsteps of two other Bear legends who played the position – Dick Butkus and Mike Singletary.
No question that Urlacher – who never forgot his Lovington and UNM roots – was physically gifted at 6 foot 4 and 258 pounds with incredible speed for a big man. (A sub 4.6-second time in the 40.) But it was his intensity and competitiveness that really set him apart.
“I’ve never seen anyone play harder on Sundays than Brian Urlacher,” said Tommie Harris, a Chicago teammate for seven years. And it wasn’t just on Sundays. Urlacher was known for his dedication to practice and the weight room.
The ultimate team player, he even returned kickoffs as a Lobo – where Coach Rocky Long designed a defense to rely on his skills, creating a special position known as the “Lobo back” that allowed maximum use of his size, speed and intensity.
Never boastful or a trash talker, Urlacher was straightforward about his legacy in a recent interview with the Chicago Tribune.
“I changed what was asked of middle linebackers … to cover 40 yards down the middle and still play the run. I was the guy who could do it all.”
Hall of Fame voters agreed.
Urlacher played for the love of the game as a Lovington Wildcat, UNM Lobo and Chicago Bear. His impact was huge, and this latest honor is well deserved.
Brian Urlacher has made New Mexico proud.
This editorial first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal. It was written by members of the editorial board and is unsigned as it represents the opinion of the newspaper rather than the writers.